Forthcoming 2023: Arabic Literature in English Translation

As in previous years, we have compiled—with the help of our wonderful community of authors, translators, and publishers—a list of Arabic titles forthcoming in English translation.

Many of these works are novels, although we can also look forward to a few collections of poetry (Rania Mamoun, tr. Yasmine Seale and Mona Kareem, tr. Sara Elkamel, for starters) as well as at least two wonderful graphic novels (Deena Mohamed’s Shubeik Lubeik and Lena Merhej’s Yoghurt and Jam) and several kid lit/YA titles (such as Haya Saleh’s Wild Poppies).

Besides fiction, readers can also expect the release of several nonfiction titles, from books on poetry to 10th-century librarian al-Shābushtī’s Book of Monasteries.

There will certainly be many Arabic literary works published in translation in 2023 that are not on this list. But it’s a start:

January

Shubeik Lubeik, by Deena Mohamed, tr. the author (Pantheon)

From the publisher: “A brilliantly original debut graphic novel that imagines a fantastical alternate Cairo where wishes really do come true. Shubeik Lubeik—a fairy tale rhyme that means “your wish is my command” in Arabic—is the story of three people who are navigating a world where wishes are literally for sale.”

*

The Disappearance of Mr Nobody, by Ahmed Taibaoui, tr. Jonathan Wright (Hoopoe)

From the publisher: “A raw, lyrical portrait of life on the margins in contemporary Algiers, this haunting noir captures an underworld of police informers, shady imams, bootleg beer traders, and grave robbers, and reverberates with echoes of Algeria’s violent past.”

*

The Blue Light, by Hussein Barghouti, tr. Fady Joudah (Seagull)

From the publisher: “Hussein Bargouthi tells his story with Bari, a Turkish American Sufi, during Bargouthi’s years as a graduate student at the University of Washington in the late 1980s. The Blue Light has several beginnings and many returns—from Beirut’s traumatic sea to musings on color and identity, from Buddhist paths to Rajneesh disciples, from military rule to colonial insanity, from drug addiction to sacred rock. Written and lived between Arabic and English, this is a unique book whose depth is as clear as its surface. It will tempt you to dismiss it as it compels you to devour it for illumination. Merging memoir with fiction, and the hallowed with the profane, The Blue Light is a meditation on and liberation from madness—a brilliant, inimitable literary achievement.”

February

The Doctors’ Dinner Party, by Ibn Buṭlān, tr. Philip F. Kennedy and Jeremy Farrell (Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher: “The Doctors’ Dinner Party is an eleventh-century satire in the form of a novella, set in a medical milieu. A young doctor from out of town is invited to dinner with a group of older medical men, whose conversation reveals their incompetence. Written by the accomplished physician Ibn Buṭlān, the work satirizes the hypocrisy of quack doctors while displaying Ibn Buṭlān’s own deep technical knowledge of medical practice, including surgery, blood-letting, and medicines. He also makes reference to the great thinkers and physicians of the ancient world, including Hippocrates, Galen, and Socrates. Combining literary parody with social satire, the book is richly textured and carefully organized: in addition to the use of the question-and-answer format associated with technical literature, it is replete with verse and subtexts that hint at the infatuation of the elderly practitioners with their young guest. The Doctors’ Dinner Party is an entertaining read in which the author skewers the pretensions of the physicians around the table.”

*

Black Foam, by Haji Jaber, translated by Sawad Hussain and M Lynx Qualey (AmazonCrossing)

From the publisher: “Dawoud is on the run from his murky past, aiming to discover where he belongs. He tries to assimilate into different groups along his journey through North Africa and Israel, changing his clothes, his religious affiliations, and even his name to fit in, but the safety and peace he seeks remain elusive. It seems prejudice is everywhere, holding him back, when all he really wants is to create a simple life he can call his own. A chameleon, Dawoud—or David, Adal, or Dawit, depending on where and when you meet him—is not lost in this whirl of identities. In fact, he is defined by it. Dawoud’s journey is circuitous and specific, but the desire to belong is universal. Spellbinding to the final page, Black Foam is both intimate and grand in scale, much like the experiences of the millions of people migrating to find peace and safety in the twenty-first century.”

March

Something Evergreen Called Life, by Rania Mamoun, tr. Yasmine Seale (Action Books)

Described by the publisher as “nightpiercing songs of exile and intimacy from Sudanese poet Rania Mamoun translated by Yasmine Seale.”

*

Fate the Hunter: Early Arabic Hunting Poems, ed. & tr. James Montgomery (Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher: “In the poems of Fate the Hunter, many of them translated into English for the first time, trained cheetahs chase oryx, and goshawks glare from falconers’ arms, while archers stalk their prey across the desert plains and mountain ravines of the Arabian peninsula. With this collection, James E. Montgomery, acclaimed translator of War Songs by ʿAntarah ibn Shaddād, offers a new edition and translation of twenty-six early works of hunting poetry, or ṭardiyyāt. Included here are poems by pre-Islamic poets such as Imruʾ al-Qays and al-Shanfarā, as well as poets from the Umayyad era such as al-Shamardal ibn Sharīk. The volume concludes with the earliest extant epistle about hunting, written by ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Kātib, a master of Arabic prose.”

*

I Will Not Fold These Maps, by Mona Kareem, tr. Sara Elkamel

Read one of Mona’s poems, “Quarantine,” in Sara’s translation, at The Offing.

*

Suleiman’s Ring, by Sherif Meleka, tr. Raymond Stock

From the publisher: “Alexandria, Egypt, on the eve of the 1952 Free Officers revolution. Dawud, a struggling musician, is summoned with his best friend Sheikh Hassanein to a meeting with Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser, who seeks their help as he mobilizes for the revolution. Dawud lends Nasser an enchanted silver ring for its powers to bring good luck. The revolution succeeds but Dawud soon grows estranged from Hassanein, who has joined the Muslim Brotherhood, after he suggests that Dawud leave Egypt since as a Jew he is no longer welcome. When Hassanein is arrested, however, destiny draws Dawud into a complex web of sexual intrigue and betrayal that threatens to upend his already precarious existence. Set against the backdrop of the simmering political tensions of mid-twentieth-century Egypt and the Arab-Israeli wars, Sherif Meleka’s story of fate and fortune transports us to another time and place while peeling back the curtain on events that still haunt the country to this day.”

April

The Beauty Hunters: Sudanese Bedouin Poetry, Evolution and Impact, by Adil Babikir, tr. the author

From the publisher: “The Beauty Hunters offers a rare insight into Sudanese Bedouin poetry, its evolution, aesthetics, and impact. Through an in-depth profile of al-Ḥārdallo, the doyen of this art form, Adil Babikir explores the attributes that established him as a poet of international stature. The life of al-Ḥārdallo was a series of journeys in pursuit of beauty. From wandering across the Buṭāna wilderness to his adventures with women, he documented the ups and downs of his life using superb verse. In addition to its aesthetic value, al-Ḥārdallo’s poetry offers rich material for Sudanese studies as it carries glimpses of the sociopolitical developments in Sudan during his lifetime, having lived through three distinct eras: Turco-Egyptian rule (1820–1885), Mahdist rule (1885–1898), and part of the Anglo-Egyptian era (1898–1956). Reading Bedouin poetry in a hybrid context, as a major contributor to what Babikir calls a uniquely Sudanese aesthetic taste, The Beauty Hunters makes an invaluable addition to the discourse on Sudan’s cultural identity.”

May

Shalash the Iraqi, by Shalash, tr. Luke Leafgren (And Other Stories)

From the publisher: “Populated by a cast of imagined con artists, holy fools, drag queens, and partisans – as well as some very factual politicians, priests, and generals – this is a novel whose only peers are Lazarillo de Tormes, Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, and Catch-22. Never written to be published, all but lost save for those disintegrating printouts treasured by its devotees, Shalash the Iraqi is here presented in its first authorised translation, with the blessing and commentary of ‘Shalash’ himself.”

*

Birds of Nabaa, by Abdalla Uld Mohammedi Bah, tr. Raphael Cohen (Banipal Books)

*

The Book of Monasteries, by al-Shābushtī, tr. Hilary Kilpatrick (Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher: “Each section in this anthology covers a specific monastery, beginning with a discussion of its location and the reason for its name. Al-Shābushtī presents poems, anecdotes, and historical reports related to each. He selects heroic and spectacular incidents, illustrations of caliphal extravagance, and events that gave rise to memorable verse. Important political personalities and events that were indirectly linked with monasteries also appear in the collection, as do scenes of festive court life and gruesome murders. Al-Shābushtī uses these accounts not to teach history but to offer a meditation on the splendor of Abbasid culture as well as moral and philosophical lessons: the ephemerality of power; the virtues of generosity and tolerance; the effectiveness of eloquence in prose and poetry; the fleeting nature of pleasure and beauty. Translated into English for the first time, The Book of Monasteries offers an entertaining panorama of religious, political, and literary life during the Abbasid era.”

*

Buland Al-Ḥaidari and Modern Iraqi Poetry: Selected Poems, by Buland Al-Ḥaidari, tr. ‘Abdulwāḥid Lu’lu’a (University of Notre Dame Press)

From the publisher: “Buland Al-Ḥaidari might fairly be considered the fourth pillar holding up the dome of modern Arabic poetry. Alongside his famous contemporaries Nāzik al-Malā’ika, Badre Shākir Al-Sayyāb, and ‘Abdulwahhāb Al-Bayyāti, Al-Ḥaidari likewise made significant contributions to the development of twentieth-century Arabic poetry, including the departure from the traditional use of two-hemistich verses in favor of what has been called the Arabic “free verse” form.”

June

Wild Poppies, by Haya Saleh, tr. M Lynx Qualey (Levine Querido)

From the publisher: “Since the passing of their father, Oscar has tried—and in his little brother Sufyan’s eyes, failed—to be the man of his family of Syrian refugees. As Oscar waits in line for rations, longing for the books he left behind when his family fled their home, Sufyan explores more nontraditional methods to provide for his family. Ignoring his brother’s warnings, Sufyan gets more and more involved with a group that provides him with big rewards for doing seemingly inconsequential tasks. When the group abruptly gets more intense—taking Sufyan and other boys away from their families, teaching them how to shoot guns—Sufyan realizes his brother is right. But is it too late for Sufyan to get out of this? It’s left to the bookish Oscar to rescue his brother and reunite his family. He will have to take charge and be brave in ways he has never dared to before.”

July

No One Prayed Over Their Graves, by Khaled Khalifa, tr. Leri Price (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)

“Khaled Khalifa weaves a sweeping tale of life and death in the hubbub of Aleppine society at the turn of the twentieth century. No One Prayed Over Their Graves is a portrait of a people on the verge of great change: from the provincial village to the burgeoning modernity of the city, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews live and work together, united in their love for Aleppo and their dreams for the future.”

Tales of Tangier: The Complete Short Stories of Mohamed Choukri, by Mohamed Choukri, tr. Jonas Elbousty (Yale University Press)

From the publisher: “The complete short stories of acclaimed Moroccan author Mohamed Choukri, translated into English and collected in one volume for the first time. Mohamed Choukri’s vivid stories invite the reader to wander the streets of Tangier, the ancient coastal crossroads between Europe and Africa, and to meet its denizens at markets, beaches, cafés, and brothels. Choukri’s Tangier is a place where newborns are for sale, swindlers hawk the Prophet’s shoes, and boys collect trash to sell for food. Choukri says that “writing is a protest, not a parade.” And in these thirty-one stories he privileges the voices of those ignored by society: the abused, the abandoned, the addicted. The tales are at once vibrant local vignettes and profound reflections on the lives, sufferings, and hopes of Choukri’s fellow Tangerines.”

August

History of Ash, by Khadija Marouazi, tr. Alexander E. Elinson (Hoopoe)

From the publisher: “History of Ash is a fictional prison account narrated by Mouline and Leila, who have been imprisoned for their political activities during the so-called Lead Years of the 1970s and 1980s in Morocco, a period that was characterized by heavy state repression.”

Love and Poetry in the Middle East: Love and Literature from Antiquity to the Present, ed. Atef Alshaer (I.B. Tauris)

From the publisher: “Love has been an important trope in the literature of the region we now call the Middle East, from ancient times to modern. This book analyses love poetry in various ancient and contemporary languages of the Middle East, including Akkadian, ancient Egyptian, Classical and Modern Standard Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Turkish and Kurdish, including literary materials that have been discovered and highlighted for the first time. Together, the chapters reflect and explore the discursive evolution of the theme of love, and the sensibilities, styles and techniques used to convey it. They chart the way in which poems in ancient poetry give way to complex and varied reflections of human sentiments in the medieval languages and on to the modern period which in turn reflects the complexities and nuances of present times. Offering a snapshot of the diverse literary languages and their relationship to the theme of love, the book will be of interest to scholars of Near and Middle Eastern Literature and Culture.”

Unscheduled, 2023

Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison, by Ahmed Naji, tr. Katharine Halls

Number 25, by Feda Shtia, tr. M Lynx Qualey (Sunono Publishing)

File 42, by ِAbdelmajid Sebbata, tr. Raphael Cohen (Banipal Books)

Yoghurt and Jam, by Lena Merhej, tr. Nadiyah Abdullatif and Anam Zafar

At Rest in the Cherry Orchard, by Azher Jirjees, tr. Jonathan Wright (Banipal Books)

Burnt by the Sun, by Taleb Alfrefai, tr. Nashwa Nasreldin (Banipal Books)

Cinderellas of Muscat, by Huda Hamed, tr. Chip Rossetti (Banipal Books)

The Calamity of The Nobles’ House, by Amira Ghenim, tr. Karen McNeil and Mled Faiza (Europa Editions)

The Djinn’s Apple, by Djamila Morani, tr. Sawad Hussain (Neem Tree Press)

Please add other titles that should be on this list in the comments or email info@arablit.org.

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